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rhee, former chancellor of the washington, d.c. public school
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system recounts her career at the present surplus on education reform. this event is about 45 minutes. [applause] first we think you very much for joining us. i know you've had a couple of busy days from last evening jon stewart to this morning appears morgan coming and we are delighted to have our wonderful friends here from c-span filming this event that many people across the united states can really benefit from a lot of what michelle has to say. to kickstart the seasoning how did you come up with a fascinating and interesting book and where does this interesting name come from? >> i think the genesis of the name is interesting in that when i first got to d.c., it was the lowest performing and most dysfunctional school district in the entire nation to be the was
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a pretty widely known truth. and so, i started doing things that i thought were obvious for school district in that kind of state and started closing the low performing schools, moving out and effective employees, cutting the central office board of bureaucracy in half and as i was taking all these steps and measures, people started saying she's a radical, she's so controversial i felt really? finally i said you know what if bringing from common sense to a dysfunctional system makes me a radical, then i am okay with that. so that is sort of embracing of that concept is the sort of idea for the name of the book. >> brilliant. some people call you and i. teacher however there are many teachers out there that like you. which is it do you think? teacher's love your heat you or is there a between?
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>> you know, i think the whole sort of notion that i am antiteacher is an incredibly odd one to me, and i write about this in the book i come from teachers. my grandfather was an educator. my grandmother was a kindergarten teacher. my sister-in-law, my best friend. i grew up around teachers and having an incredible respect for the difficult job that they have every day. and i still surrounded by teachers to this day. and i think that it is because i have such respect for teachers and told them in such regard i have a tremendous believe for what they can do and the power that they have, and i refuse to believe what many folks these days say which is if kids are coming from difficult situations and poverty there is nothing the schools can do. i roundly reject that notion. i think that when children are in the classrooms of truly
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effective teachers even despite the fact they may face a lot of obstacles those kids can achieve the highest levels and so we should aspire to nothing short as a nation making sure every single kid is in the classroom with a highly effective teacher every single day. it's no less than what we would want for our own children and nothing different than we should want for the nation's kids. >> michelle, if the united states spends the most per capita, per student with the rank and 25 otas 37 default nation's, 17 in science and 14 and reading? >> when i share those statistics with people they cringe a little bit. we are 25th in math and some of the countries ahead of us are hon mariana slovenia. i think as americans we don't expect to be behind slovenia or
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hungary. when i started years ago someone showed me a scatter plot of all of the developed nations in the world and on the one access it was academic achievement levels of the students and on the other access was the amount of money that country spends per child on their public education system. we were in the cauldrons that you do not want to be which is spending a lot of money and have poor results and the only other thing that was in the squadron plus luxembourg. i think the problem with this notion is that for decades, people have been pushing this idea that what we need in order to fix a system is more money, more money. but when i got to d.c. it wasn't the case they were more than any of our jurisdiction and the entire nation.
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in new york and new jersey they're spending $22,000 yet the percentage of kids a robbery of a greater level proficiency are in the single district. the idea that we can throw more money into a broken system and expect different results is faulty. we have a great deal of transparency are not aware our dollars are going so we can stop spending money on things that have absolutely no impact on kids. when i was in d.c., we had a budget for $1 billion a year. 300 million of it went into the schools which means the majority of the money was going into this bureaucracy, this bloated bureaucracy. money will have the impact when it's the school and the
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classroom and not when it's being sucked up by the school district so until we bring some light in that and until we share a light on what kind of return on investment are we getting for different programs and different expenditures i think we are going to continue to live in this world where we are spending more money per kid but we are not getting results. >> we talk about student vouchers how did you come to the changing our thinking on this interesting topic? >> this topic of felch terse hawk in dove gets people riled up. you want to have a debate you bring up the word of voucher and people have very strong opinions. i am a democrat. i spent my entire life since i was in the second grade and i said what's the difference between a republican and democrat he said democrats care more about, you know, the people that have less and republicans want to make money to the i said well i am a democrat. and i have been ever since. and so when i got to d.c. what
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education reform should look like and what it shouldn't and where i drew a bright line on the vouchers because in the democratic party we think they are bad because you are taking money away from the schools that need it the most and only helping a few kids. when i arrived in washington, we had a publicly funded voucher program, and people -- it was about to be free authorized and people wanted me to lehane monegan you are the top education official. what do you think about the program? do pretty much knew what i thought they didn't want to jump to any conclusions and so i started to meet with people, families throughout the city. and the discussions i had absolutely change my mind. i was meeting with parents from throughout the city. mostly low-income single moms. these moms had done everything
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you would want a mother to do. they would research their neighborhood schools, figure out that only 10% of the kids at school or on grade level. my kid has an 90% chance of failure if they go there. then they would do the next best thing which is they would apply for the out of boundary lottery process that we set up to try to get one of the spots in one of the good schools on the other side of town and inevitably they would lose because there were thousands applying and then the moms would come to me and say now what am i supposed to do. when i was looking at these mothers and i knew that i could not offer them a spot at a high performing schools that i thought was good enough for my own two kids i said we might to stop this lady from taking a $7,500 voucher which is a lot less than we were spending in the district and potentially may be going to catholic school case where that kid could get a good education and was not willing to say no. a supply came out in favor of the voucher program and people
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went crazy, nuts. what are you doing? you are going against the party. and i would always say to people look, my job is not to protect and preserve a district that has been doing a disservice to children. my job is to make sure every kid in the city gets a good education. i am agnostic as to the delivery method. it can be a private school, charter schools, traditional home school as long as kids are getting a good education, i don't care. so i tried to bring a lot of my democratic friends along with me on this issue and i was talking to a friend of mine that is a public-school teacher the other day and said i raised the whole argument out, she looked at me and she said yeah, no, not by teeing it. i said okay let me tell what i think. did you watch the movie waiting for superman? she said yes one of my best friends was in it and i said do you remember the scene with little bianca where she's looking out the window and it's a tragic thing she's crying
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because she can't go to school because her mom has fallen behind on the tuition payments? what you think about that? she said it was heart wrenching. was an injustice. she said i wanted to write the check myself. i said i would be a voucher. this is the problem people have. they see things like vouchers and think it's a republican thing or a democratic think and if we stopped looking at things in terms of partisan politics and started making public policy based on the decisions we would make for a hour own kids i think we would have neither republican nor democratic agenda of the students first agenda and it would put up or country on a wildly different trajectory leaning forward. how do you aim for critics that say that's not effective and teachers have no control over things such as kids home life, poverty level etc..
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>> they are absolutely right. we have kids that come to school every day facing enormous challenges. nobody put them to bed before, nobody said them breakfast before they can to school. maybe the electricity got turned off in the house and they couldn't do their homework. when you are facing these challenges, does it make it harder to learn and therefore does it make it harder to teach those kids? absolutely. 100 percent. but can it be an excuse for why kids are not achieving? no way. this is what i think is the thing we have to understand in this country right now. the u.s. ranks towards the bottom internationally on social mobility. which means that if you are a child who is born into poverty in this country, the likelihood that delivery escape poverty is not good. that in my mind goes against every single idea that we hold as americans.
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that is not the way that every country is supposed to work. this is the greatest country in the world because if you work hard and do the right thing you can live the american dream. but if you are a poor kid growing up in america today, the likelihood that he will go to a failing school is about 50 percent which means you are not in to get the skills and knowledge that need to go on to get a college degree in a high-paying job. that is criminal in my mind. so, we can't allow poverty in my mind to be the determining factor of the chances in life outcome. we absolutely cannot do it. >> what about the problem of teaching to test? >> so, this is a very good question. and i see both sides of it because as a mother, last year when my daughter was in the fourth grade, about in the middle of april she was coming home and i said where is your homework? she said we don't have to work
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anymore because the test is over and i thought my gosh what kind of message is this sending to the kids come to the parents who are sitting there asking their kids these questions and they say it's over. there is an over emphasis on the test that i actually think is bad for parents but on the other side of that, i talked to a parent in competition not long ago that was extraordinarily frustrated because she had a little girl who all through elementary school had gotten straight a's and she was excited because she had applied for her mother to go to the middle schools and was told later on that her daughter didn't qualify to enter into the lottery because she didn't have the academic skills that she needed. she got all a's from kindergarten through fifth grade and they said the grades are one thing but she took the test, like she actually doesn't know of reading comprehension.
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we can show you all the data. this mother felt so betrayed. she trusted the system and she thought her kid was coming home with good grades that meant something. why isn't anyone telling me and shoving me of the data that actually compared to the pierce that she wouldn't compete? so while we don't want an over emphasis on the test we also want some accountability. we can do that on a standardized consistent way and there's not such an over emphasis on test people don't think that is the end all be all. >> in the brilliant film waiting for superman you offer the teachers union more money to teach, substantially more money into the union rejects that. why? >> that's what i was asking.
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during the movie if you saw the incredulous look on my face, are you kidding me? this is when the movie was being filmed we had presented a plan to the union where we said we want to get highly effective teachers the opportunity to make things double and the system if they were willing to give up tenure and seniority protection etc. but the choice they don't have to if the teachers want to stay in the old system they can. if they want to go to the new system, they give those up but they will make a lot more money. let the teachers choose and the union said no to the i sort of could not believe it and it's interesting because the guy that was the president of the teachers' union that time now has come to jesus and his an education reformer and what he tells me now when i didn't come back to the vote it's because i didn't want that policy in
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place. he said i was getting all these e-mails from teachers saying we want it, so i knew i was going to lose the vote if i did it so i just didn't put it up. eventually we actually got the contract in place, and this is the interesting thing about it. people were very skeptical about what kind of impact was going to have to be if you paid some teachers a lot more money based on the results, etc.. and there was a study that just came out a few weeks ago that studied several urban districts across the country. and what it showed is that most of these districts retained their highly effective teachers and ineffective teachers at exactly the same rate. there was no differentiation whatsoever. and the one-out liner to the study was washington, d.c.. where they kept about 88% of the highly effective teachers and only about 44% of the ineffective teachers and i said that means that what we are
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doing is starting to work because the great teachers are feeling more valued and they know that they are being recognized and rewarded for their work and it makes them want to stay. >> the most precious capital are the children so what is the valuation and merit pay apply to teachers, and why aren't the slowly performing teachers remove in your opinion? >> you know, is a tough thing to understand why this goes on because it defies all common sense. >> everybody in the audience, most people on the audience the merit evaluation is the way of life, which ever way you cut it and especially something so important dealing with children, why is and so much more resistant to this evaluation? >> i can tell you from having run a school district for three and a half years that much of
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the education community is allergic to the idea of accountability. people want to say well we can't all be accountable for this reason because of this and that and the other reason. and i think it is extraordinarily problematic. so i don't know exactly why. but let me tell you how i think we have to change this. i now live about half the time in california, which is one of the most difficult states to get anything done in terms of education reform. so there was episode that happened in a public school in l.a. where they found this teacher who was a sexual predator and they found the kids in the class so the school district had to fire them and they couldn't because he had tenure. it was an absolute travesty. their parents were up in arms.
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so a legislator in that area introduced a bill to the california legislature that would simply make it easier to fired sexual predators. that is a pretty low hanging fruit. you would think a bill like that could get past. it didn't even make it out of the education committee. didn't even make it out of the committee and make it to a vote of the legislature. that is how powerful the status quo is in making sure that no law gets passed. when you think about it if you went out on the street today and asked people what they thought about it, i guarantee you that virtually everyone would say of course we should pass a law like that but the people on that committee that wrote know, nobody knew that. there was no public light shone on that and so those lawmakers are not going to be held accountable for the decisions that are to the detriment of
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children. the only thing that this is going to change is if we as citizens start to hold every elected officials accountable for the kind of laws that we put in place and we send a message to them that if you're going to vote with a nominal interest instead of the kids' interest we are not going to vote for you the next time around. [applause] that means we all have to figure out who are the school board members, state legislators and what steps they are taking on education reform. >> why do seem teachers receive the same rate every year? you touched upon it briefly earlier and is it the motivating for the excellent teachers come in and doesn't show poor performing teachers that they don't have to improve their own performance or regardless and it gets the same 2% raise every year regardless of what they do to the great future and the really hard work? >> again, you see why i was shocked when i was trying to
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make common sense changes and it got such pushback because you have some employees that are doing well and he should be little to compensate those employees even more. that depends on how the education system works. in education we have something called the step in flames so you get paid according to what kind of a degree you have and how long you have been in the profession and literally drives effective, highly effective teachers crazy when they see somebody downhaul who comes in and the kids leave and meanwhile they are coming into hours early and staying three hours later and they are producing results yet they get paid less than that person because that person has been here longer. it's not the kind of environment that the achievers want to go into and stay in and it doesn't make teachers feel valued at all. i got in a little bit of trouble the other night because i was giving a speech in california. and i was lamenting the fact that the teachers don't get paid
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enough to it i said think about this. i said basketball players. now, why my husband is a former nba player. this is why i got in trouble at home to it i said basketball players get paid $12 million a year for troubling of all -- dribbling around. we should be 12 million to our highly effective teachers in the nation because they are determining the future of our nation. but we have a skewed culture where we don't actually respect and honor teachers for the incredible work that they do. we certainly don't pay them what they are worth. >> in australia they have 200 days of public schools. in china and india is 200 days of public school instruction. in the united states, why do you think in the united states it is only 180 days? which is drastic if you take
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between china and india it is 40 plus days a year and if you multiply that from k through 12th grade it is a big disadvantage. islamic there is no wonder they are kicking our butt. they're really isn't. people all the time to talk about what do we need in order to fix education, and in my opinion you have to put every single resource in to solve this problem and the people underestimate their resources of time. and i think that if you look at the schools in this country that do this, whether the traditional public schools, charter schools, etc. they are in school more, they have their kids working before school, after school, on the weekends, etc. and we have a 180 day calendar because we are still living in the agrarian calendar. i mean, literally, it's interesting. somebody said on a talk show the other day or maybe weblog they
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said michelle rhee is wrong. the u.s. is not doing worse than it was doing before. she is sort of exaggerating the problem and that person is actually right when you look at the fact that the academic achievement levels of our kids in america in the 1960's and 70's is pretty much on par with where we are today. so it's true from that vantage point we have not gotten worse. the problem is that there are countries that are leapfrogging ahead of us. countries like what -- latvia and liechtenstein, i'm not kidding, they are growing at two or three times the rate of american kids. if we are singing the same because we are running the school system the exact same way that we were 100 years ago based on the agrarian calendar, and other countries have figured out that you know what, if we want to get ahead we have to educate
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our kids and put more time in, etc., then we can remain the serve in terms of our academic achievement levels but we are going to fall behind in terms of kind of the global positioning. >> is the average american receives two and a half weeks of vacation a year, why do public-school teachers in general receive over trees and a half months a year come and do you think that will ever change compared to what we are talking about other countries, the amount the school year is and more focus on students? >> i think it is only going to change if we make the commitment as a country to address this issue and do something about it. as long as the school calendar is something that is negotiated in a bargaining agreement, we are in trouble. because this, in my mind, we should start out as a country. our kids need to be in school for x number of days a year.
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that is just the way it is that because it is collectively bargained, they don't have any money to put on the table. oftentimes the only thing they can bargain away is the length of the school day or the school year which is just a detriment to children. you have several communities across the country that over the last couple of years have had to go to a four day school week because they didn't have enough money to sort of negotiate. that is where we have to draw the line, folks. i mean, i naturally for the collective bargaining. oncoming you know, i am all in favor of unions, etc.. and around things like salaries and benefits, they should absolutely be able to bargain those things at the table. but when it comes to how long kids should be in school, that in my mind should not be a bargaining chip. >> michelle come it definitely feels like there is more to be written your incredible story. the because received incredible reviews. tell us where the student first is going and what is next for
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the organization? because what you have done in two years according to many, many critics. >> thank you. i started students first two years ago when i left d.c. with the idea that if you looked at what was happening in the public education over the last two to three decades, you would see that it's largely driven by special-interest groups whether it's textbook manufacturers, teachers' unions, testing companies. these organizations have tremendous resources, and they use those resources to put a lot of influence on the political process to get the policies and the regulations in place that benefit them. and i actually don't have any problem with that. that's the american way to be the that's democracy. we should be able to do that. the problem is not the fact those organizations exist. the problem at that point is that we didn't have an organized national the interest group with the same held as the teachers' union about was advocating on behalf of kids and because the kids were not being represented
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at the table, you had a and obscure landscape and the environment was tilted towards of these interests and away from kids. so, we have to start a national movement of everyday people who care about education and who know what kind of policies we have to put in place and who are willing to fight for it and hold public officials accountable. they have to be an organization that has political muscle. so i started students first with 2 million members across the country right now we have over 150,000 here in new york almost 300,000 in california. and these are very active people. the of the surging for the venues in which they can fight for kids. they found it for us and we got over 115 in the 17 states that we are working with over the last two years. we've gotten involved in electoral politics with over 100 politicians in last year's elections and a rate of about
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75 percent. and so we are beginning to level the playing field on behalf of kids coming and i would say that we still have a long way to go. ..
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[inaudible] >> i'm also ware of the mindset bought i was in americorps. implementing the federal program. took active role in the classroom. and i stepped out and i didn't want to do that. your mindset is -- i'm such an advocate for what you're doing, and i'm so happy you're doing it. i want to be part of this. how did you make that stand when you're -- >> that is part of the reason why i wrote this. partially because i wanted to tell my story and explain to people why i've come to have the
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views i do. part to sort of get teachers and educators to understand that. but partially for the average mom out there, who is frustrated with what she sees, and who wants to do something about and it doesn't know how. what i would say is this. take right here in new york city. doesn't matter where you send your kid to school, doesn't matter whether at it is, you hae to make the decision you think is in the best interests of your kids. you can't let politics or guilt or anything else make you send your kid to one school or another. but there is something you can do to help the situation. let's take new york city for example most of you probably know this but the city recently lost $300 million in state and federal aid because the union basically refused to implement a rigorous teacher evaluation
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system. everybody has to be evaluated. everybody has to be held accountable. it's the way of the world. but the union refused to do this, and mike bloomberg, who i think very rightfully, stood his ground and said, no. because what the union wanted was for the evaluation model to just be in place for two years and then sunset after two years, two years, which happened to be the market an ineffective teacher would be removed and then we re vert back to the sold system. the mayor says, no. what's the point of doing that? years the public outcry for that? where are the people that are picketing out there in the street saying, you cannot deny our kids $300 million because you refuse to be held accountable and have a reasonable evaluation system in place? and so this is where students
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organizing,edeveryday people. you have to get involve, because until the legislators -- the governor, they can solve these problems but they have to hear from people like you that you're going to make decision weather to vote for them based thon stapses they're taking. right now they're hearing a whole lot from the education folks and not enough from people like you. >> in the back with the blue shirt. >> even if all this was put in place, one can make the argument that we live in a culture that children go home to watching five hours of tv a day, facebook, internet, hollywood, and tv, which is filled with, shall we say, injurious things,
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and there's a mass media in terms of television and radio and talk hosts with the very culture and danger of our country is hostile to education, and i raise the question, the best -- what good does it do unless the whole culture is not transformed? and maybe that's part of the problem. i'd like to hear you reaction to these things which are beyond -- >> so, i'm an educator, so i don't know how to solve all of those social ills out there. i can tell you the kids are not the only ones that are spending too much time on facebook and texting. a know a lot of corporate ceos are spending too much time on their iphones as well there was a study that came out a number of months ago that was done by economists at harvard. and what they showed is that -- they studied over two million
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kids over 20 years, and they found if a child had a highly effective teacher, just one in their 13-year schooling experience, their earning potential was higher, their likelihood they graduated from high school, went on to college, was greater, and the likelihood they would avoid a teenage pregnancy. was higher. so, i get there are all kinds of problems. we should try to solve a lot of those problems. but we also cannot forget that what happens in schools matters a lot. and if what we are concerned about is poverty -- a lot of people say kid inside poverty face -- these are real challenges. don't get me wrong. but if we want to fix the problem, the best way for somebody to break the cycle of
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generational poverty is to get a high-quality education so we have to embrace the fact that education plays a very significant knoll what the culture is going to look like in the long term. if we are producing kids that do not have the skills and knowledge necessary to get a well-paying job, and nowdays employers -- 50% of employers say they cannot find people in their applicant fool who have the skills they need to fill mission-critical jobs. think about that. with this kind of unemployment rate in this country. half of the employers say they have jobs and just can't fill them because our education system is not producing people who have those skills. we are on a very, very difficult course for the future. that education can play a very large part in fixing. >> thank you so much. my question has to do with a
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structural change we're experiencing in the country where it's possible for someone with a high school education to go to work in a factory or some similar job, auto plant or whatever, and make perhaps $80,000, $90,000 a year, and a middle class life. those jobs are gone forever, and for people in those families and their children, to be able to make similar salary -- no one is really talking seriously about structural problems, and when you have the school districts -- fighting about whether creation verse science. so, with this tremendous structural change, what do you see is most effective way to
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address that? >> well, we have to bring reason into how public schools operate. you know, it is astonishing how many conversations i am in, in public forums, where people say to me, well, you know, you seem to have sort of -- you want our kid -- not all kids are cut out for higher education. i say, excuse me? because the bottom line is if you look at the data, it is very clear that the vast majority of the jobs 10, 15, 20 years from now, are going to require some level of higher education. if you're saying some kids are not cut out for that, you're basically saying they're not going to be able to find a decently paying job. what does that mean for their future? when i was in d.c., i remember going into a school and they
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were doing a -- they had a program used to be called vocational education, and enough it's call the career and technical education, the p.c. term, and the kids are doing shoe repair. and i said, really? shoe repair? are we thinking we are actually preparing kids for a profession by teaching them shoe repair? we have to be thinking about things in terms of, what are the jobs that will be available 15-20 years from now. we have to look at things like clean tech and green tech and that sort of thing. and then our careers in technical education should be gored towards those skills and those professions. so even what we think of as vocational, career tech, what can we do to build the skills of kids so they could potentially go straight into a profession after high school? it's a wildly different set of skills and fields than we were looking at 20 years ago, and we have not made that shift yet.
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[inaudible] >> 50% of vouchers is a great idea. >> no. >> $500 sounds like around 50%. just estimating. >> you mean in terms of the amount of the vouch center. >> correct. 50% of the per capita spending. >> depends on the district. go ahead. >> this requires that the schools be at least twice as efficient and probably a lot more than that to switch than the school they're sending their kid to, and this argument that the unions throw out in order to have a trump card, what about special needs kids? well, here's a simple answer. each special need kid counts as two kids. so when you figure out the per capita spending, you use the
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calculation in that manner and they have to predefine who is special needs and they get a double voucher. so calling the teachers' union bluff. when the federal government wanted all states to adopt 55% speed limit. they said you're not getting any highway money unless you do. well, you know, congress can do that with federal education money as well. if you don't fully voucherrize the districts in this manner you're not going to get in federal education money if you don't make the requirements all the way down the chain to the municipality. >> there are lots of people out there who believe that -- let's have universal vouchers. i don't agree with that. i am for choice, not for choice sake but only when choice results in better outcomes and opportunities for kids. and the program says we support
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students first, programs geared towards low-income kids who would be trapped in failing schools. it can be worked out in terms of how much money the voucher should be, to be fair. what i find curious is the absolute aversion that people have to the concept of vouchers in public education. and there are two reasons why. one is because if you don't believe in public dollars going to private institutions, and companies, et cetera, then you don't believe in pel grants. that's the same thing. where kids get ple grants, they good to harvard or yale or wherever they want, private institutions, with the grants. you don't believe food stamps should be used and redeemed at any store you go to in your neighborhood. medicare can also be used at not just the public hospital. so the idea that we just can't
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do that with public education is an odd thing. the second thing i say is that people often make the argue; when it comes to vouchers, well, we shouldn't take the money out of the system. we should take that money and invest in the failing schools to make them better. and here's why i think that makes absolutely no sense. we don't use that logic in any other part of our lives. if you went to a dry cleaner down the street, and of eave ten shirts you took them, seven of them came back with a huge burn mark on them, what would you do? you'd stop going. what if the people said, you can't stop giving us your business and your money? because we need your money to be able to invest in new equipment and to train our employees, and if you take your business away, we're not going to be able to do that. what would you say? you'd say, that was my shirt, buddy. so we a

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CSPAN March 17, 2013 11:15pm-12:00am EDT

Michelle Rhee Education. (2013) 'Radical Fighting to Put Students First.'

TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 5, Etc. 5, California 4, D.c. 4, United States 4, Washington 3, India 2, The Union 2, Michelle 2, New York City 2, The City 2, China 2, America 2, New York 2, U.s. 2, Mike Bloomberg 1, Texting 1, Jon Stewart 1, Michelle Rhee 1, Rhee 1
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